Vanity of Vanities

by Michael Simmons on May 17, 2013

Since I’ve been young, I’ve had a feeling that life should be better.

So, at different points in my life, I’ve full-heartedly tried every strategy I could to make it better.

Becoming good at tennis. Trying to become popular in high school. Making money. Being spiritual in college. Being a raw foodist. Meditating. Getting married. Having children. Writing a bestselling book. Having a social impact. Being an entrepreneur.

At one point in time, each one of these was the thing that I thought would change everything. That’s what drove me to become good at them.

ALL of these things have improved my life, but they haven’t filled the hole.

None of them have.

The hole is the part of me that wants more.

My deepest unspoken fears have been, “Is this is it? Is this as good as it gets? Will the hole always be here?”

My fears have become more and more true.

Without the stories, life actually hasn’t changed that much at its most basic level.

I sleep. I eat. I move around. I talk with people. I smell, see, touch, taste, and hear things.

All my big goals have focused on giving me a better story I could tell to myself and others.

Ironically, the stories have distracted me from appreciating what is experienced as it is experienced.

By building an identity around a story, anything that threatens that story becomes bad.

Maximizing the good and eliminating the bad is a game that cannot be won. The bad will keep on showing up.

It’s a beautiful and tragic paradox.

The paradigm of good and bad is transcended by surrendering the stories.

Appreciation is the result.

“Vanity of vanities,” saith the Preacher, “vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”


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I'm the co-founder of Empact, one of the leading entrepreneurship education organizations in the world. I'm obsessed with understanding how we all can lead meaningful lives that have a positive social impact. I love probing into the truth of how we experience life. I believe that challenges are what make us grow the most, and I openly share my experiences. Continue reading…